Cast Iron, the Quintessential Appalachian Pan

Written by Chef Ambassador, Matt Welsch

I’ve often said, usually misty-eyed after a few sips of bourbon, that my heart is in the shape of our West Virginia hills. And that, my friends, is a true statement. However, if it were to be any other shape at all, it would most certainly be a trusty cast iron skillet. With its glistening black patina and hickory leaf-shaped handle laying comfortably in my hand, the weight recalls the generations of my ancestors that have held that same pan.

I was raised to take care of my tools so that my tools could take care of me, and that philosophy resonates in my darlin’ cast iron. Throw it on a stovetop. Toss it in the oven. Lay it down on the hot coals of a campfire. Nothing fazes cast iron.

Modern folks may fear the resilience of cast iron because we’ve been taught by cheaply made store-bought facsimiles of pots and pans that we must be ginger with them. We mustn’t get them too hot, scratch their surface, cook certain items in them or use certain oils. We certainly must be careful with how we clean them – nothing too abrasive, nothing too harsh.

Cast iron looks at these other “pans” and says “Let’s get to work, brother.” There are very few ways to damage or destroy your cast iron, and I would argue that there are none. Yes, it’s true that if you let your cast iron stay wet for too long, it will rust. But listen, and listen closely my friends, that doesn’t automatically destroy it.

You’ve just created more work for yourself because you’ll have to polish out the rust and re-season your pan. That’s all. Cast iron doesn’t care. You just probably don’t want to eat rust. So, don’t let your cast iron rust. But whether it rusts a bit or not, it will still be here at the end of the day like the hearty Appalachian folks who cook with it.

Savor Some Almost Heaven Cast Iron Dishes

Stillwaters Restaurant at Stonewall Resort serves up a delicious cast iron Cinnamon Sassafras Glazed Pork Chop. Paired with root vegetables and mashed potatoes, this meal is one you will long to savor forever.

Head to The Peddler in Huntington for some mouthwatering cast iron mac & cheese. Have your choice between traditional, lobster, brisket, buffalo or cheeseburger variations of this beloved classic.

Charleston’s 1010 Bridge Restaurant & Catering is best known for its famous Cast Iron Seared 1010 Cut. This tender meat comes alongside Lobster Mac & Cheese, Candied Onion Brussel Sprouts and Cabernet Bordelaise Foie Gras-Shallot Truffle Butter.

Visit Brix 27 in Martinsburg for a sweet spin on a cast iron dish. Here you can order a scrumptious cast iron vanilla pudding chocolate chip cookie topped with vanilla ice cream and chocolate drizzle.

Meet The Chef Ambassador

Matt Welsch

 Owner & Executive Chef of Vagabond Kitchen

Matt Welsch is an award-winning chef and restaurateur in Wheeling, West Virginia. He began his culinary journey in the dish pits of his college campus and has manned the lines in kitchens all over the country as he rode his motorcycle along blue highways to sample the culinary diversity of the United States.

Chef Matt has been featured on Guy’s Grocery Games, The Cast Iron Cookoff, West Virginia’s 40 Under 40, Taste WV Magazine, WV Living and Bon Appetit. He believes simply that everyone deserves to eat good food. Chef Matt currently serves up flavorful creations as the Owner and Executive Chef of Vagabond Kitchen.

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This post was last updated on May 12, 2023